Wednesday, January 25, 2017

North Carolina State Basketball

From Seth Davis's Wooden: A Coach's Life (2015, paperback)
North Carolina State beat Duke this week in basketball.  Even more satisfying was Abu's non-flagrant foul against Grayson "Most Punchable Face in the World" Allen towards the end of the game.  As the lily-white audience cheered a failed comeback attempt, I wondered why anyone would support Duke when so many other Carolina basketball options exist.

First, it was UNC's Dean Smith who truly integrated Carolina basketball, not Duke, by accepting Charlie Scott on a varsity athletic scholarship.  It's true that Maryland's Bill Jones, in the 1965-66 season, was the ACC's first African-American scholarship player.  Of course, Maryland isn't North or South Carolina.

It is true that Wake Forest's Norwood Todman became the first black scholarship player on the Demon Deacons's freshman team, but that was non-varsity.

It is also true that C.B. Claiborne played Duke basketball in the 1965-66 season, but he was on an academic scholarship, not an athletic one; only eight African-American students preceded him in graduating in 1969; and he, like Norwood Todman, played freshman ball, not varsity.

That's not all.

Every sports fan knows about NCSU Jim Valvano's 1983 championship victory against a Houston team led by future NBA Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.  Fewer people remember it was the NCSU Wolfpack that ended UCLA's streak of seven consecutive national titles when it beat Coach John Wooden's Bruins and Bill Walton 80-77 in double overtime in the NCAA's 1974 national semi-final game.

The year before, David Thompson led North Carolina State University to an undefeated season (27-0), then followed it up with a 30-1 season and the anti-climactic 1974 national championship.

Ok, ok, that was a long time ago.  "What about now?" you might ask. Fair enough.

The only major college I've personally seen play a basketball player wearing hearing aids was NCSU.  His participation was so under the radar, a Google search of "hearing aids North Carolina State basketball player" yields zero relevant results as of today.

Remember Deah Barakat? His favorite team was NCSU.

NC State's amazing 2015 March Madness run was heaven on earth for any basketball fan.  The only recent college basketball experience rivaling it would be UNI's Ali Farokhmanesh taking down #1 seed Kansas.

Finally, watching Abdul-Malik Abu this week, it's clear he'll make the NBA and provide basketball fans with even more excitement and hopefully a long career.

What else do you need to stop supporting Duke and switch over to NCSU?  A lynching?

(c) Matthew Rafat

Bonus: One redeeming aspect about Duke is that Bobby Knight is responsible for its success.  Coach Knight took Coach K under his wing by coaching him on the Army's basketball team, being his mentor, and helping him find employment as a coach.  No Bobby Knight, no Coach K, no Duke success.

Why do I like Bobby Knight so much?  He was perhaps the last honest "Power 5 conference" coach in the NCAA, now that even UNC has admitted academic violations.  Here's one of my favorite Coach Knight quotes: "We've gotten into this situation where integrity is really lacking...we've got a coach at Kentucky who put two schools on probation, and he's still coaching. I really don't understand that."

Update: on January 29, 2017, a few days after my post, it appears Duke's History department page no longer accepts my original link to "lynching," so search for "Duke noose tree 2015" if further links don't work.

Update: I checked again on January 30, 2017, and the original link works again, but I've kept the new link in the main article.  

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